I don’t know anyone who went into healthcare to pursue their passion for documentation. Our goal is to treat patients. But as a student, I’m starting to realize that excellent patient treatment depends on effective and accurate communication. Reimbursement also depends documenting thoroughly and accurately, as does productivity. If I’m going to be a good professional representative of PT, I’m going to need to document well – and preferably quickly. I can’t change the fact that documentation needs to be done, but I could do it faster, then get back to patient interaction.
Here are some tips from my research on improving typing speed:
- Ergonomics – This topic is in a physical therapist’s wheelhouse. Are your wrists well-aligned as you type? Is your screen at eye level? Are you in spinal neutral? Your posture affects not only your health but also your speed and accuracy. Since I’m doing more typing at home, I’ve added an external keyboard to my laptop so that my laptop can be at eye level with the keyboard lower, and this setup is quite a bit more comfortable. Moral of the story? Laptops should not always be on your lap.
- Equipment – Is your keyboard slowing you down? Keyboard angle, style, and key spacing all affect your ergonomics and typing speed. If you happen to have access to multiple keyboard styles, try them out. For a more scientific test, you can look up a free online typing test (generally these only take 1 minute), and try it out on both keyboards. If you’re faster with one style or spacing than another, switching may be a good investment.
- Technique – Ramp up to touch typing, or if you can only touch type letters consider adding numbers and symbols to your repertoire. Accuracy matters – for free typing training, look up a chart of which fingers should cover which keys. Search for “typing test” online, and you’ll find many free exercises to practice on. Search for “alphanumeric typing test” to integrate number practice if that is your focus.
Tips for practice:
- Limit practice to a few minutes a day to minimize frustration
- Focus on accuracy
- Don’t look at your hands. Instead, visualize where the right key will be
- Type lightly – don’t strike the keys harder than you need to, to conserve energy and improve speed
- Relax. Tense fingers move slower, a tip I’ve carried over from piano training
Whatever your technique, please be encouraged that your documentation is valuable. It may feel like a lonely interaction between yourself and a machine, but your words go out to real patients, real providers who coordinate care, real researchers searching for causes and treatments of conditions, and, also importantly, real insurance companies who decide how much your organization will get paid. You may not be writing Dickens novels, but your thousands of words paint a valuable picture of a patient at this moment in time. Stay the course. Write accurately, write ethically, and write fast.